When the temperature drops in the winter here in American Fork, UT, homeowners turn their attention to keeping their houses warm. However, it’s not just a matter of staying comfortable. It’s also important because it protects your home’s plumbing from the threat of freezing. A frozen pipe is more than just an inconvenience.
It can result in a flood if the pipe bursts due to the extra pressure created by ice expansion. The good news is that there are some things you can do to defrost a frozen pipe safely if you catch it in time. Here are the specific conditions that lead to frozen pipes and how to handle it if it happens.
What Causes Pipes to Freeze?
Although it’s obvious that sub-freezing outdoor temperatures lead to frozen pipes, you may not know that other factors increase your risk, too.
Prolonged Periods Under 20 Degrees
Generally speaking, a day or two of freezing temperatures won’t be enough to cause your pipes to freeze. The highest risk comes if the outside temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for at least a full day. At that temperature, the incoming water temperature can get low enough that the ambient warmth in your home isn’t enough to prevent freezing.
Exposed Pipes in Unheated Spaces
Not every pipe in your house is equally vulnerable to freezing. Pipes that run through unheated spaces and don’t have any insulation are at the greatest risk. This means the pipes in an unfinished basement or that run through a garage are the most likely to freeze.
Exposure to Drafts
Pipes that get exposed to drafts are also at extra risk of freezing. Just like wind chill can affect how cold it feels outside, it can also accelerate pipe freeze. This is because drafts carry away extra heat energy from the pipes, making it more difficult for them to resist freezing.
How to Tell if You Have a Frozen Pipe
The most obvious sign of a frozen pipe you might encounter is a lack of water pressure or any water at all coming out of a faucet in your home. This likely means a supply pipe is either partially or completely frozen. You might also notice a frozen pipe if there’s frost or condensation on any exposed pipe inside of your house. A frozen pipe may also bulge because of the internal pressure exerted by the ice inside.
Although it’s not as common, drain pipes in your home may also freeze under certain conditions. Often, the first sign of this will be a gurgling sound coming from your drains or odd smells when you’re not using your drains. This can happen if you have undetected clogs in your drains that allow water to accumulate and freeze inside them.
How to Handle a Frozen Pipe
To deal with a frozen pipe, you’ll first need to figure out where the frozen section of the pipe is. If it’s in an area you can reach, there are some steps you can take to solve the problem. First, open up the affected faucets in your house. This will provide a means of pressure relief as you thaw the frozen pipe. Next, use a hair dryer or an electric heating pad to apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. Don’t put the hair dryer too close or turn up the heating pad too high as you do this.
As you apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe, periodically check your faucets to see if there’s any water flow or if the existing flow is returning to normal. You should also check the frozen section of the pipe to look for signs of damage, like deformation, cracks, or leaks. If you see any evidence of those things, turn off the heat source, turn off your water supply, and call us for help.
Preventing Pipe Freezing
There are a few ways that you can prevent your home’s pipes from freezing in the first place. The easiest one is to make sure you never set your thermostat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even if you plan to be away from home. You should also open up any under-sink cabinets to allow heat to reach the pipes contained within them.
You can also install additional foam insulation on any exposed pipes in your house. If you’re dealing with especially vulnerable pipes, you can even install electrically powered heat tape on them. This will detect unsafe temperatures and automatically turn on to warm your pipes.
The Frozen Pipe Experts
Of course, there may be times when dealing with a frozen pipe is beyond the skills of a homeowner. In those cases, count on Gunthers Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing to help. We offer comprehensive plumbing services to the residents of American Fork. Plus, we’re a full-service HVAC company that offers indoor air quality solutions, sheet metal fabrication, and ductwork. If you need help with a frozen pipe in American Fork, call Gunthers Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing today.